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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

He Didn't Have to Change

I was reading Facebook when a "like" pointed me to somebody's blog post. The post was about a woman who stood firm in the face of her husband's drinking and carousing with other women, standing by her man until he sobered up and came to his senses. She was getting ready to leave him, to be fair, just waiting on the kids to grow up, attending college to finish her degree. But on the oil rigs, the man discovered Christ and became changed. He realized what he had, and everything went back to normal; in fact, better than normal.

I do not discount miracles. If God granted this woman a miracle, who am I to question God? Yes, there are everyday miracles, but this one, to me, seems to be in the super-deluxe miracle category, and therefore few and far between in this world. It's what makes such miracles rare. Perhaps God decided it was better for this couple to be together. Other couples in similar situations? Well, there's that Romans 8:28 clause about all things working to good for those who love the Lord according to His purposes- that's HIS purposes, not ours.

I suppose I could have waited for Ex to get his act together, or at least until the two older kids were grown. My mother advised it, and at one point tried to get ex and I back together- after he was married to his third wife.

However, Ex left me, despite what he tells people. He tricked me into baby-sitting for his last extra-curricular girlfriend of our marriage, leaving her kids with me for the day, into the night, then coming home. I didn't get paid. I thought she was a work colleague of his at a big-box toy store. The girlfriend didn't speak much English, and Ex told her I was his sister. She called me later and apologized profusely, as best she could.

He then came home late one fine day, after I had performed all the "pleasing" I was told was required: Home very clean, meal ready, even a hot bath drawn. As he sat in the lovely hot bath, and as I started to scrub his back, he informed me he wanted a divorce. He claimed we had married too soon, that because of his circumstances growing up, he hadn't had a sufficient adolescence. At that point, I was too stunned to do anything. 

I don't what happened to that final ex-gifrlfriend, but I have kept up with several of Ex's lovers from the time of our now ecclesiastically null and legally ended marriage. We have a sort of club, Ex's Exes. Only one knew of my older kids and me prior to becoming involved with Ex. Ex told her I was not giving him his marriage rights, and that he was leaving me soon (It took him another 4 years and 3 moves to leave after that encounter). They've gotten on with their lives as best they can after Ex, shared similar breakup stories. Several weren't married, but it made them wary of married men for life, a good thing in my opinion.

Here's the thing: Ex hasn't gotten better over time. The second-to-last time I talked with him, and I admit this was over 20 years ago, he suggested things on the phone I refused to do. He likes to babble on the Internet and to people I know that he also knows that I am the one who left him for somebody else, that I was a poor mother who didn't care for the children and ruined them, that I bled him dry (at $300 a month for 7 years, and it took him 14 years to pay that), that I denied him visitation (that would be the court that granted my present husband adoption). 

Ex is essentially a teenager still, rides around on a Harley, blames other people for his actions, moves every few years to yet another state, lies to my older children (one sought him out, he sought out the other), lies to my parents. I don't know the state of his present marriage, but I don't imagine it's as fabulous as he lets on, unless it's an open marriage. He apparently still has blow-outs where he is gone for periods of time, and his present wife apparently allows these, no questions asked (or he has gotten very good at covering his trail). I know for a fact he used to go to gyms to peruse the gym bunnies. 

I don't know if God has jerked Ex up by his tailfeathers once or several times since our divorce, pointing out the harm he's done on his path of destruction. He has his excuses: His mother died when he was young. His grandmother and older sister raised him for several years. His father took off for Vietnam voluntarily rather than stay with his kids. He obtained a stepmother in late middle school, who was resented by the older sister. I know his father drank, about a big bottle of Wild Turkey a week, supplemented by beer throughout the day.

As time has passed, I've gotten on with my life as much as I'm allowed to do so. And I married a man who loved me for who I am. He is stable, consistent, kind, caring. Most of all, he is stable. He doesn't lie to me, not even a little. He cared enough about me to adopt not only my older kids, but some of his legal grandchildren. We do what we do together, including the budget and coordinating work stuff, not just fun things. We still have date night, almost 25 years later.

He never had to change. We all change in some ways, but not usually the way Ex still needs to change. The Mister never had to change that way. I think it's called Integrity.

His background was not always one of stability and calm growing up. His mother drank. His father left the family home when he was in middle school for another woman with children. His sister is still in the throes of drink and drugs. He spent a year or two living with relatives as a kid. He enlisted in the military in order to finish his undergraduate degree. He's been married before us, and it wasn't a happy life for him either (no children, which made it easier, but not happier). Neither parent really supported his choice of  attending college, but his mother, a European immigrant who spent her childhood under Hitler's occupation, saw no point in going to college. Her slogan for decades was, "Why don't you just become a roofer?"

(No offense to roofers. I have two cousins who do a good job at it. But if you knew the Mister, you would know he's not a roofer, or a plumber, or an auto tech. And the world's a better place for that. We who have suffered his large-scale repairs know this, and bless the community of the Trades, as they used to be called, each and every day. He can do electrical, thanks to his military time. But that's it.)

Yet, those prior situations made the Mister stronger, more determined to do what he needed to do to be the man he wanted to be. He doesn't whine about his past, he overcomes it. 

He is the rock in my life. I don't know what I ever did without him in my life. Should he pass first, I don't know what I'll do without him when he goes. And no, we will never divorce, knowing "never" is a loaded word.

Our Lulabelle paints the Mister as some sort of cartoon character when she describes him online. She alleges that he never "reins me in" as if I am a circus pony. He is represented as the nebbishy little man of Looney Tunes fame, with "Yes my love" always on his lips, hat in hand, never willing to think for himself. Ex has corroborated this in his postings.

The Mister doesn't need her, or anybody else's, approval. That's how strong he is, how comfortable in his own skin he is. Oh yes, he'd like to drop some weight, and he has his doubts as we all do. But trust me: If he thinks something is wrong, I know it. He will not budge on that which he considers wrong. Do not stir his wrath. He stands on his principles, and nothing can budge him. 

Life is short. I would not bother to keep up with Ex if my two older kids weren't involved, and therefore, the grandchildren who are now legal children. As many of you do, I also have fears of that adult child coming out from the shadows to snatch, to grab, to make trouble for the grandchildren who are now our children. We have a nice life now, and I want these children to grow up without fears of being snatched, legally or illegally. This is despite the adoption order, changed birth certificates and social security cards, new state, etc. The only comfort we have is that we obtained their adoption in a state that had a few past problems with adoptions and worked out the kinks on adoption law, to the point where all adoptions are closed, in the sense that the documents are locked up by court order, and not subject to be re-opened and heard again in court. We work through and around those fears every day, just as many of you also work through them. We will continue to work around them for years, until the kids are grown and can make their own choices.

But it is so nice to know that the Mister didn't have to change, didn't have to have that moment of choice.

There are a lot of men out there like him, who do the right thing, day and day out, without sneaking women and booze as if they are little kids stealing penny candy, who don't withhold their paychecks from the family, who don't depart for days on end, only to return as if nothing is wrong.

To all those men, especially to the Mister, thank you for your integrity, for your strength of character.  Thank you for sitting down to monthly budget meetings, dance recitals, basketball games, church on Sunday. Thank you for hand-holding, whether in joy or in sorrow. Thank you for replacing football and Internet time with family time. Thank you for going to work each day.

Thank all of you husbands who chose to raise your kids, whether you are the only father they've ever had or you are the father du jour, and all types in between, including stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, older brothers, cousins. Thank you for being there for the women in your lives, and for the resulting children, so that they know you are there. Thank you for your patient sacrifice, getting up at the crack of dawn or the middle of the afternoon to work yet another early or late shift.

Happy Father's Day, real men!

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